If this then never that

8:30am

Driving into work, I was listening to Story Core on NPR. It was a conversation between a woman who received a life-saving kidney and pancreas transplant and the mother of the young man who died and donated the organs. Both the recipient and donor were addicts. The young man died of a heroin overdose. The recipient said what motivates her to stay clean is her family and legacy of the donor. She said she needs to stay clean to honor his death and her life. I know I’ve said this before but it helps to put it down on paper. I will stay sober for my children. Dennis and Brad deserve a father who is the best version of himself. I deserve a life where I am the best version of myself. I will stay sober.

I can’t escape the obvious benefits of doing so. Every aspect of my life (exempting my relationship with Michelle) is better: the boys and I are closer than we have ever been, it feels like I have a handle on my control issues and anxiety, I am more productive at work, I have read 7 books since I quit, so far I filled 190 pages of a journal, I sleep better, my complexion looks better, I have lost 33lbs, clothes fit better, I can run further and faster than I ever have, I am physically stronger than I have been since my 20’s, I am sharper mentally, generally speaking I am more attractive (physically and emotionally), the list just goes on and on. So the verdict remains the same, sober David is a better David.

I was talking with a friend over drinks last night (mine were the non-alcoholic variety) about Michelle and I. She is of the same opinion of all of my friends who spent a lot of time with Michelle and I. She thinks we should not get back together. She said Michelle hasn’t dealt with any of her issues. She feels like Michelle is in the “look everyone at how great I am doing” space. I know Michelle has run up credit card debt because she has started getting offers to help her refinance high credit card balances sent to my house. She said Michelle will eventually have her anger and rage subside and I will be getting a phone call from her wanting to talk about us getting back together. I doubt that. She doesn’t know just how deep Michelle’s anger issues run. Michelle was promised $500 from a past employer over 3 years ago (he never paid) and when it comes up in conversation she still has the same level of anger/resentment she did back then. If she can’t let go of a promised $500 that never materialized, what are the chances of her letting go of her anger with me?

Plenty of fish

8:30am

I had the boys last night for dinner. We had a blast! We went for pizza and then cupcakes at Jone’s Brothers.

I signed up on Plenty of Fish yesterday. I am going to have a good friend help me set up my profile this weekend. I already had some nice looking woman start chatting me up so that’s nice. I have been thinking about this for a while. I am totally out on a serious relationship with anyone who has kids or wants kids. I think I should avoid anyone who is seriously younger than I am. That is seriously going to narrow the field. I don’t know if I am ready for this shit but fuck it. Michelleisn’t taking me back.

Turn the page

it is about time

I turned the page. no one else

can. I might as well.


4:30pm

Driving home tonight I thought about my divorce. Specifically how I was able to move on almost immediately and Collette had a more difficult time. I had been thinking about (fantasizing really) about leaving her for a long time. We were so unhappy together, I wanted a different life. I know that is why Michelle has been able to move on so quickly. She had been thinking about (fantasizing?) leaving me for quite a while. She was ultimately not invested in our relationship. She went through the motions but was leaning towards leaving. I imagine it was the boys that had her holding on…that was the only reason. She doesn’t believe she could do what she wants to do in life while being with us. She thinks we would hold her back and stymie her ambition. I wish she had talked to me about it. I would have told her how proud we are of her and her accomplishments. I would have told her we could have made an internship out of state work. I would have told her I love her and we could make anything work as long as we were together. There is so much I would have said to her if she had just talked to me.

My drinking and her total lack of communication is what killed our relationship and destroyed the family we had built. The stupid, crazy, hopeless romantic in me still thinks it’s not too late. We could see a family counselor and start working on everything. That’s silly and naïve. Michelle is all rage and hate. She’ll never change that. It’s her armor. We are never going to see each other again. We are never going to speak to each other again. I will never find the intimacy and love we found with each other. We will find love again…someday but it will fall short. The only conciliation is what I said this morning, in 10 years I’ll remember how I felt but the feeling itself will be worn down. I hate that we are done.

I have been recording my blog posts in a journal. I am starting a new journal tomorrow. The one I have been using is almost full anyway. I’m going to put this one on a shelf, where it belongs, and leave it there.

 

More insight

8:00am

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving next week with my long weekend in Chicago. I’m worried I’m going to get bored while I’m there. I’ll pick up an extra book just in case. Friday after Hamilton, I think I’ll take an architectural boat tour. I have this nervous fear my parents are going to “surprise me” by coming out. I hope they aren’t coming. I really want the solitude right now.

I have been thinking about the right way to structure/organize my thoughts about Michelle. I need to frame them differently. I need to stop thinking about our happiness. I need to remind myself she doesn’t want a family. More than that, I need to remind myself what my friend said the other weekend about hoping we don’t get back together. That was/is a paradigm shift for me. It brought all of the things Michelle did or didn’t do into focus. She took me for granted and I feel taken advantage of. She never really was bought into our relationship.

All her blame and anger are a smoke screen for her guilt. There is a part of her that hates she wants to be free of our family. We would still be together if I was able to move. She would have worked on our relationship if she could say, “I want to move to (insert city)” and I was able to do it. I can’t though. So she tells everyone what a piece of shit I am as the reason we broke up so they don’t know she really broke up because she doesn’t want the obligations and limitations of living her life with the boys and me. She can’t have the adventure and excitement she wants while being with us. She isn’t willing to postpone that till after my boys are grown and gone…she wants it right now.

Okay…giant sigh…that feels right. My life as a father doesn’t offer flexibility or adventure and Michelle wants adventure (right now) more than she wants us.

All of this doesn’t mean I don’t miss “us”. I miss the joy, laughter, love, care, sense of common purpose, sense of family, fun, ease, touch, tenderness, our conversations, her kiss, watching her love my boys, feeling her love me, making love, holding each other…I miss “us”. I have never felt closer to another human being as I did to Michelle. I have never been that intimate with another person. It is a once in a life time type connection I doubt either of us will ever find again.

None of this negates my controlling behavior. It was there! It was a direct result of my anxiety, my anxiety was exacerbated by my drinking. Controlling behavior was a way to eliminate the outcomes in life I was anxious about. Drinking helped numb the anxiety. It was a vicious cycle. I would feel anxious and drink to mute that feeling. Drinking lowered my inhibitions and allowed me to be more controlling. The longer I went in life drinking, the more I needed to drink to get the desired effect. The more I drank the more I felt the need for control. I went further and further down the rabbit hole. I feel like I have broken the cycle. I am clear headed. My anxiety is manageable because I am addressing it not muting it. I address it with exercise, meditation, reading, and writing. I have dealt with toxic relationships. I have worked on creating healthy boundaries (for me and my children) that do not sacrifice what is good and healthy for me/us to what makes other people happy.

I thought for a long time my anxiety stemmed exclusively from my relationship with my father. It doesn’t. It is rooted in bullying from when I was a child. There were some pretty traumatic things that happened in the 7th grade. It made me anxious to be at school. I felt powerless. I internalized all of it and told no one. I was afraid I was going to be bullied again all the time. It’s why I hid in the library at lunch from 7th grade until I was a Junior in high school. If I wasn’t where the bullies were, I couldn’t be bullied. It was my first attempt at controlling and it worked. It reinforced that if I could control things, I would be safe. Never addressing the root trauma allowed the controlling behavior to leach into most of my life. Drinking magnified it.

What I am about to say is very difficult. I have never articulated this before (not even to my therapist). I have had a substance abuse problem since I was 19 years old. I have self-medicated my anxiety for 24 years. From the first time I felt the wonderfully numbing effects of smoking marijuana in mid-September 1993 to August 1st, 2017 (when I quit drinking) I have used marijuana and alcohol to tune out the deafening noise of my anxiety. I used to call it “turning my brain off”. The never ending scroll of “what if’s” would just stop when I was high or drunk. They were manageable when I was controlling and in charge of the outcomes in my life…but they were silent when I was high or drunk.

I feel so much better now. Now I know what to do. Now, I know what is real and what is my anxiety screaming nonsense about the end of the world. All of this insight is the only positive thing to come out of losing Michelle. Losing her was my rock bottom. It was what inspired me to change and work to be a better man and father.

16 years ago, I did what Michelle wants to do. I moved to a big exciting city (San Francisco), worked, and advanced my career. It was a scary, wonderful adventure I’ll never forget. I didn’t have anything tying me down. I was single. She is right at the same age I was when I did that. Our age difference doomed us. If we had been married, she would have stayed with me and been bitter at how her life hadn’t been the adventure she had envisioned. We would have been divorced in 10 or 15 years.

Maybe one day she will look back on our time together without all the hate and rage she has. Maybe she can admit being a family with the boys and me wasn’t important enough (I say this without judgement) and not have the guilt or loss she is carrying around. At this point, who cares really? I have a good life. I have great kids. I am healthy and I’m working on staying that way. I love Michelle. I miss Michelle. I wish we could work through all of this and be together but that will fade over time. In 10 years, we’ll remember how we felt but the feeling itself will be worn down.

Getting better

I wanted to change

for three. I should work for the

two who deserve it.


8:30am

I am surprised by the amount of boredom that comes with sobriety. I am bored…all the time! When I would normally stop off at a bar/friend’s house for a drink is just dead time. I can’t tell you how many times I say to myself, “now what?”  The better I am emotionally, mentally, and physically…the more energy I have. The more energy I have, the more I am bored. There is only so much laundry to be done, I can’t clean the house all the time, the dog won’t go on endless walks, there are only so many books to read, so many movies to see, I can’t play games on my phone endlessly, I can’t work out more than once a day, it’s too cold to play golf…I am just bored, a lot. Looking at this from the outside I can see someone posing the question, “does being bored make you want to drink?” It doesn’t. That’s good.

Of course I think about Michelle and what we would be doing together. I’m not sure why I’m bothering talking about that…silly.

My therapist thinks we have reached the end of her usefulness. She pointed out several things that are different since we first met:

  • Grief has moved (mostly) to acceptance
  • Stress and anxiety are way down
  • I am effectively using tools to manage the anxiety that remains
  • My desire/need for control has abated
  • I have been sober for 15 weeks

Consequently, I am happier than I have been in years…happiness is my “starting position”.

I have to agree with her on all fronts. I know I feel sad from time to time. I think about and miss Michelle in my life every day. Knowing she is happy and grateful to be free of the boys and me hurts and makes the “missing her” worse. That said, I wake up every morning feeling good. I don’t feel like a different person…just a better version. I started out doing this for Michelle (I could have become the embodiment of everything she wants and she still wouldn’t be with me. She left because she doesn’t want roots. She wants freedom.) This change is ending up being for my children and myself. I like this version. He is kinder, gentler, and more patient. The boys like it too.

 

Disturbing behavior

8:00am

Another good day. I feel great! I have nothing new to report in terms of my mood or sobriety.

I feel like I am getting a network of friends re-established. I have a reconnected with a bunch of people I lost touch with while Michelle and I were together (she didn’t like most of my friends. She made it pretty difficult, if not impossible, to maintain those relationships. Now that I think back on things…that’s disturbing behavior…right?). It’s nice to want to go out and be able to find a friend to join me. It wasn’t like that for a while after she left. I haven’t reconnect with everyone though.

It feels right to cut the toxic people out of my life. What’s sad is: at one point, they all meant something to me. They felt like a positive force in my life until I realized they weren’t. I don’t feel bad about it. It feels like a weight off of my shoulders.

Do as I say not as I do (hopefully)

8:00am

I feel great today. So much so, Brad told me it was annoying what a good mood I was in. So I played up the annoying because…you know…that’s what Dads do and also…screw him for finding my joy annoying…LOL!!

I feel healthy, ambitious, content (with life), physically strong/able, just all around great. I like this, this consistency in my mood. I was talking with an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while on Friday. She was asking me about my sobriety and what I have noticed the most since I quit drinking. I told her it was the clear head every day. She laughed and said, “You mean you’re not hung-over?” It’s true. I haven’t had a hang-over since I quit drinking (obviously). The only time I have had a headache waking up is when I had a particularly sweaty work out the night before and didn’t drink enough water.

I keep coming back to sobriety. Well that’s not entirely true. I keep coming back to Michelle, our relationship, and then sobriety. I should have addressed my drinking years ago. When I say years ago, I mean 10+ years ago. Better late than never, I guess. I think being open and honest with the boys about my drinking is a net positive thing. They get to see and understand the dangers of drinking. Until now a drinking problem was the homeless guy on the street or the man in jail for driving drunk. Now, it’s their father (with: a successful career, a big house, a nice vehicle, who exercises 4 days a week, etc) who has the drinking problem. My life didn’t fall apart (aside from losing Michelle) but I was still unhealthy. Now that I quit drinking, they get to see the incremental improvements not drinking has added to our lives and take those into adulthood. This has improved their chances of breaking the cycle I was stuck in. They won’t have to wait until they are 42 years old to start (hopefully).

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

4:00pm

I feel like Hedwig did in the last scene of Hedwig and the Angry Inch when he wanders out into an alley cold, alone, and naked. He is completely exposed and disoriented. He stumbles a bit but he keeps moving towards the end of the alley. In that moment, I feel hope for Hedwig. He is leaving this dark place and moving towards something better. Watching it, you get the sense that Hedwig is going to be okay.

I am nervous. I feel naked, exposed, and vulnerable. Even when I stumble, I want to keep moving forward. Luckily it is the only direction available to me.

We are happier

the three of us are

closer than we were before.

we are happier


8:00am

It is so good to have the boys back with me again. I always miss them when they are with their mother but it is brought into sharper focus when I have them…how much more fulfilled my life feels. I enjoy the time I get to spend with them. Our relationship has gotten better (and we have always been really close) since I have quit drinking. We laugh and have fun more. I still have that stern, “I’m your father and I have expectations!” thing because you know…I am and I do. It just seems easier, more relaxed…I don’t know what word fits best…not organic… somewhere between relaxed and natural. Whatever word best embodies that emotion.

I have to admit to a sense of pride in myself. I can look back on how I was doing, day to day before Michelle left me to where I am now and see a happier person. Don’t get me wrong, I am still sad about Michelle and I. The happiness is just a general, underlying state of being. The background noise is happy. It’s my first position (if I can use a dancing term).

Drinking has recently been difficult. The cravings have been more frequent. I went to dinner with some friends at a place that makes great cocktails and someone ordered their “Perfect Old Fashion”. I could feel the desire to have one in my chest. It was uncomfortable.

 

It is okay to be selfish (sometimes)

9:00am

I had an interesting conversation with a friend at Brad’s soccer game. She is friens with Michelle and sees her from time to time. She is glad Michelle and I broke up. More accurately, she said she hopes we don’t get back together. I asked why. She said it wouldn’t be good for Michelle, me, or the boys. She said Michelle has so many ideas and plans for her future and she is obviously so very happy about having freedom. She doesn’t think Michelle regrets us breaking up…in fact she knows Michelle is truly grateful she isn’t limited by having a partner/spouse and children. She told me she imagines 10-15 years into the future with Michelle and I married. She can see Michelle wishing her life had been different than having a family and being bitter at me for that. I agree with Cindy. At the end of the day, Michelle liked being with me and the boys, she just doesn’t want the responsibility and obligation(s) that come with it. I’ve been thinking and saying this for months now. She validated it.

Michelle wanted to want to be a wife and (step)mother…but faced with the obligations and responsibilities, she hated it. We made her feel trapped. What I am about to say is a statement of fact, not judgement. Michelle is being a selfish person. It is normal for a person who does not have children to think and behave this way. She is not interested in suborning her needs for the needs of a/our family. My friend is right. If Michelle had stayed with me and the boys, she would have eventually been unhappy.

I wish Michelle could be okay being selfish. Instead she feels guilt. For her that manifests itself in anger and denial. It explains why she has been so hateful and cruel.

I feel sad. Last night I cried as I was processing this. This is cathartic. The catharsis comes when I think about dating. There is no chance Michelle and I will work our way back to each other so I don’t feel guilty as I imagine being with other women.